Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Mulholland Books is a new imprint devoted to publishing suspense fiction, which opened this year. Black Light is one of their first titles, but authors such as Lawrence Block and Joe E Lansdale are lined up, while the promised highlight is going to be Anthony Horowitz’s House of Silk, an authorised continuation of the Sherlock Holmes series. What separates Black Light from any of these titles, apart from the unusual triple authorship, is that it is a work of supernatural suspense – Buck Carlsbad fights and traps bad spirits then disposes of them in church urns.
However, in the same way that high definition cameras and slick computer programs are needed to bring today’s television witches, zombies and vampires to the screen, Buck’s world is also a high-tech one – the forces of darkness are going to be attacking him on a new maglev train racing from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Although Amtrack have been talking of high-speed trains, unlike the French TGV or the Japanese bullet trains the USA has none.
That means openings for billionaire developers, while aspiring politicians will be happy to be associated with potential growth, kudos and the publicity that goes with it. Then, when the train is ready to make its virgin run, everyone else – sports stars, popstars, Hollywood A-listers – will all be looking out for their complimentary tickets. That train is going to hold a lot of souls to be stolen. Buck, who has to wear old-fashioned Walkman headphones to keep the noise from the other side from filling his head, is employed to protect against that. It is little help that the Secret Service do not believe in his gifts and are consequently at odds with railway security. When the shooting starts not only will there be no silver bullets, who do you think is going to be shooting at who?
Black Light is literally visceral horror – Buck swallows the bad spirits and then regurgitates them into those urns. He does not hide how unpleasant it is. Equally, before he can ingest them he has to fight and overcome opponents only visible in the “dark light”, which he describes in page after page of italics. That amount of detail seems inconsistent with what, ultimately, is a noir ‘tec tale about double-crossing bosses and their triply untrustworthy friends.
An unmentioned but happy coincidence to this story is that maglev transport was invented by British engineer Eric Laithwaite and that Laithwaite believed in ghosts (this is not mentioned on his Wikipedia page), performing experiments, some of which were televised, to prove it before his death in 1997. How much else of Black Light will you recognise as having a scientific underpinning? Jump on board and see if Laithwaite is there for the ride.